Monday, October 02, 2017

Connecting Indian cities

This year, an estimated 125 million domestic air sectors will be flown. Much like mobile phone connections, the number of sectors flown should not be conflated with the number of Indians who fly. Given that most flyers are relatively frequent and take at least one return trip, or most likely more, with the heaviest flyers flying more than 10 sectors annually, one can, therefore, guess that fewer than 20 million Indians actually take to the skies every year. That said, there is little doubt that air passengers play an outsize role in the Indian economy — they are India's high-spending consumer class that keep the economy ticking over. The Narendra Modi Government wants to expand air travel for a couple of reasons. One, as explained earlier, is the outsize economic impact of air travel. Travel by air in such a vast country like India saves time and since we are told that time is money, time saved is money earned. The other obvious reason is to enhance contact between different regions of the country. However, the Regional Connectivity Scheme, also known as UDAN, which aims to subsidise short-range air travel, has been a slight non-starter as much of India's air travel still depends on major air transportation hubs of Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai. It is ridiculous that to travel between two cities in Rajasthan, flyers have to travel to Delhi first. Even more ridiculous is that this method is still faster than either a train or driving, leaving few options to the harried and impatient traveller. The same issue applies even in the southern part of the country, particularly in Kerala. Under the first phase of UDAN, there are flights aplenty between small towns and major air hubs but connectivity between small Indian cities is still limited, if not non-existent.
02/10/17 Pioneer